Blacks in Mormonism: Come Follow Me LDS 2021 (Dec 6 – 12) Articles of Faith & Official Declaration

Todd Noall

Todd Noall

Source Expert

Todd Noall is an author and religious scholar at Mormonism Explained with a focus on the history and theology of religion.

Fact Checked by Kevin Prince

Like most religions, we believe all that God has revealed. But what makes us different is that we believe He is still revealing truths today and will continue to reveal more, which means God still speaks to His prophets and apostles. Some examples of this are in regards to changes in policy regarding plural marriage and the LDS priesthood ban. Sometimes it’s like our prophet is taking us on a journey that’s confusing to us, but God sees the big picture and reveals things to His prophets as needed for the time they’re needed. And then our prophet is the watchman on the tower leading us on our journey to avoid the pitfalls of life. The official declarations included in the Doctrine and Covenants are two great examples of this.

One of these declarations is the Manifesto, ending God’s earlier command for plural marriage. Now, between 1852 and 1890, Latter-day Saints openly practiced polygamy because it was a commandment of God for them at that time. It certainly wasn’t an easy commandment to obey, but it did result in large families. In fact, like compounding interest, the church’s size today is partially a result of this practice in its early years. It also greatly blessed many single sister immigrants and widows in that era as marriage became available to all those who desired it.

But U.S. politicians insisted polygamy was barbaric and were determined to stop it. Sure, there were other groups in America practicing plural marriage, but once again, the main group that came under attack was the Saints. Politicians began to arrest and jail many church leaders practicing polygamy; they made life miserable for them. The persecution was so intense it was about to destroy the church. President Wilford Woodruff spent months asking God what to do regarding the government’s attacks. Then, in 1890, the Lord revealed that it was time to end this commandment. President Woodruff said, “God has told me exactly what to do. He showed me in vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice.” And so, with this revelation from God, President Woodruff issued the Manifesto ending plural marriage at the general conference on October 4th, 1890. The Manifesto was printed in newspapers across the country, letting politicians know that polygamy was officially done in Utah.

Still, it took a long time after the Manifesto was issued for all Saints to accept it. It was baby steps, line upon line, until in 1904 when the Prophet Joseph F. Smith issued the Second Manifesto, declaring new plural marriages punishable by excommunication. Since that time, church members are no longer allowed to enter into polygamy, and today, anyone you hear about practicing it, claiming to be a Mormon, is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Another great revelation was received by the Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, who got rid of the Mormon priesthood ban and announced that all worthy male members of the church may be ordained to the priesthood and receive all temple ordinances without regard for race or color. As in ancient Israel, where only certain tribes could have the priesthood before this revelation, there were certain races who could be baptized but weren’t allowed to receive the priesthood. This policy started during Brigham Young’s time, but the exact reasons are unknown today. Many subsequent prophets prayed fervently for God’s guidance to change this policy as they considered everyone children of God. For years, President Kimball went alone to the temple every Saturday and Sunday to pray about it. He kept a notebook full of correspondence about blacks and the priesthood. The range and extent of the notebook’s content showed that the matter concerned him greatly. But it wasn’t until a meeting with all the apostles that the Lord clearly revealed His will. Elder McConkie, one of the apostles who was there, explained, “The Spirit of the Lord rested mightily upon us all, and we all heard the same voice and received the same message and became personal witnesses that the word received was the mind and will and voice of the Lord.” This revelation was presented and joyfully received on September 30th, 1978, in General Conference. It was a great day for thousands of faithful people. Shortly thereafter, full congregations of people in Nigeria and Ghana lined up at the water’s edge to be baptized and start new congregations of the church in their countries. They’d faithfully waited and prayed unceasingly that they could receive the priesthood and be sealed in temples. Truly a day of great rejoicing.

But why had this policy been instituted in the first place? Well, church leaders and members have given many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions, but none of these explanations is accepted today as official church doctrine. Still, human nature asks, “Why?” But regarding this specific issue, President Oaks taught, “If you read the scriptures wondering, ‘Why did the Lord command this?’ or ‘Why did He command that?’ you find that it’s not the pattern of the Lord to always give reasons. Some people put reasons to revelations, and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong. Wonderfully, we can trust God even when we don’t know the why.”

Today, church leaders unequivocally condemn all Mormon racist and racism in any form. President Hinckley declared, “No man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ, nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the church. We are each a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven who loves all of His children.”

And now we end our study of the Doctrine and Covenants with our 13 Articles of Faith. These were written by Joseph Smith in response to a Chicago news editor named John Wentworth, who had asked about the basic beliefs of the church. Unfortunately, Wentworth never published them, but they are part of our scriptures today. Do you have any of them memorized? They state some of the things that set us apart from other religions, like we believe the Godhead are three separate individuals who work together in complete unity for our benefit. We believe that the priesthood is on the earth today, along with its gifts, power, and miracles. We believe we are literally taking part in the gathering of Israel, and we believe that God will continue to reveal many great and important things pertaining to His kingdom.

Thanks so much for joining us this year for our study of the Doctrine and Covenants. Next week, we’ll finish by learning about one of God’s greatest gifts. This episode is packed with info, so you might want to watch it again to make sure you didn’t miss anything, including the hilarious jokes. If you feel this video has helped you on your path toward truth and Christian discipleship, please subscribe and share. Most importantly, go read the scriptures for yourself.

By Todd Noall, Source Expert

Todd Noall is an author and religious scholar at Mormonism Explained with a focus on the history and theology of religion.

Fact Checked by Mr. Kevin Prince, Source Expert

Kevin Prince is a religious scholar and host of the Gospel Learning Youtube channel. His channel has garnered over 41,000 subscribers and accumulated over 4.5 million views. Mr. Prince also created the Gospel Learning App, a reliable platform where individuals seeking truth can access trustworthy answers to religious questions from top educators worldwide.

About Mormonism Explained

Mormonism Explained is a resource that was designed to provide objective and factual information about Mormonism, its history, doctrines, and policies. Our team of researchers consults experts and primary sources to present factual information on a variety of topics relevant to the Mormon Church.